Monthly Archives: August 2013

Seriously, Siri?

Dear Siri,

I like you.

You are very smart and do a lot of things to make my life easier.


Yesterday, you did not.

As you know, Kelly’s had a very big project at work and I’ve been invested in getting our school year started. We’ve been like two ships passing in the night and have had to catch up via email and quick conversations in whatever pockets of time we can find them.

Last night he was had a late meeting that would keep him at work until after I needed to leave for my own meeting on the other side of town. As I was driving on the H3, I saw emergency vehicles on the lanes moving in the opposite direction and the traffic was backed up as for miles.  Since I knew this was the route Kelly usually travels home, I wanted to make him aware so he could use an alternate route home, like the Likelike or Pali Highway.

I didn’t have anywhere I could safely pull to the side of the road and since I don’t text and drive, I thought maybe you, my good friend Siri, could shoot Kelly an email at work. He always checks his email before he leaves the office so I felt fairly certain he’d  get the message.

This is what I asked you to put in an email message to Kelly:

SUBJECT:  Wreck on H3

MESSAGE: That was supposed to say wreck on H3.  Siri can’t spell. You may want to check the news or take the Pali. As of ten after five H3 was very blocked. 143.

This is what you sent him:



When Kelly read it, he initially thought I’d taken up drinking, but soon realized you’d simply misunderstood what I asked you to say.

Once I hit the H1, traffic wasn’t going much better for me. I was concerned I might be late for the meeting so I asked you to tell one of my friends who was attending the meeting so she could let the meeting moderator know in case I didn’t show up on time.

This is the conversation you created:



Now, maybe you truly misunderstood what I was saying. I am from the South. I have an accent. Lots of people don’t understand what I’m saying. I should probably be accompanied by an interpreter at all times. To compound matters, I’m now a Southerner who lives in Hawaii. We have some unusual names here. Your friend the GPS slaughters all of the street names on a regular basis, and I’ll admit, we’ve laughed at her. So I can’t help but wonder if you’re getting back at me for making fun of your friend. Because seriously, Siri? H1. It’s a letter and a number. I didn’t ask you to text Kamehameha or Kalanianaole. I think you’re just messing with me.

But just in case after all our time together you still can’t understand me, here’s what I’d like for you to do. Next time you talk to your friends at Apple, ask them to consider creating other versions of you for different dialects and regions. While they’re at it, maybe they could create some cool new voices for you. I’d like to put in a request for a George Clooney Siri voice.

In the meantime, we’ll just have to keep muddling through together. In case I haven’t told you lately, thank you for everything you do for me. I’ll try to do a better job of enunciating for you if you’ll try to learn some Hawaiian road names for me.

Your friend (and owner),





Filed under Uncategorized

45 Years…Still Counting

She was a pretty, brown-eyed girl from a small town. He was a handsome, small-town musician. He told his mama after he met her he knew he would spend the rest of his life with her, and he did.

On a sweltering summer day in a South Carolina church, they made promises to each other…

Promises to love.

Promises to cherish.

Promises meant to last forever.

IMGP3834They didn’t have much money, but they had each other and soon their family grew. My brother and I became part of their love story and we learned from our parents how to love well.  No matter the address, our house was always a  home where love lived.

The years brought good times and not-so-good times, as the years are prone to do. The young lovers attended weddings and funerals. They fought and made up. They laughed and cried. They made memories. They became parents and parents-in-law and grandparents.

papagramannaThey had done life together for so long it became hard for people to tell where one of them stopped and the other began.

One fall, he started having symptoms no one could explain. Something inside her told her this was something big. After several appointments, the doctor said the words no one ever wants to hear. It was cancer. It was bad. He might not have long.

So she fought for him. She researched and googled and called and emailed. She never left his side during the surgeries and the treatments and the therapies. She argued with doctors and refused to take no for an answer. She had leaned on him, but now she was his strength. Sometimes love means fighting like your life depends on it. And so they fought together.

DSC00841During his last hospital stay, he told her he wanted to go home. Something about the way he said it made her ask him which home. With tears in his eyes, he pointed up.

So that day she packed his things and took him to the home they shared. And they waited for Jesus to come get him and take him to the home He’d been preparing for him. Because sometimes love means putting someone else’s needs before your own.

One day, he told her about a dream he’d had. Only it wasn’t a dream, he said, because he wasn’t asleep. He said he saw a field and in the middle of the field was a big tree. God was there and He invited him to sit with Him under the tree. He said it was a beautiful and peaceful place.

As the days passed, he talked less and slept more.  But she stayed by his side. We all did. We knew he would be leaving us soon, and even though he’d said everything he was going to say to us, we just wanted to be in his presence for as long as we could.

One night–or maybe it was day; the hours seemed to run together–she curled up beside him in the bed they’d shared and she played their songs for him. Songs from the days when they were first getting to know one another. Songs that had grown to mean something to them over the years. Some of the songs were as familiar to me as the family stories we told around the dinner table at holidays, but some were songs I’d never heard before. And I was reminded that before they were my parents, they had a love story that belonged only to them. I felt like an intruder there, but I dared not move lest I break the spell of that moment. So I watched as she kept her promises…

To love and to cherish…

In the end he seemed to be caught in some sort of battle. He didn’t seem to be able to let go of the life he’d made with her or to leave the people he loved.  He struggled between his desires to be here and there. He fought for every breath. It was excruciating to watch. But we stayed there with him, knowing our time together was almost done.

I watched as she held him. She leaned in close and whispered to him, “It’s okay to go home now. Go find the tree. I’ll meet you there. Wait for me under the tree.” Sometimes love has to be brave.

She was brave through the visitation and the funeral and the burial. But now she has to figure out how to be her without them. When the two have truly become one, how do they become one again? Almost four years later and there are no easy answers.

This isn’t how she planned it. It isn’t how any of us wanted it.  But this is the way it is.

So she continues to love him well because that’s all she knows to do. To carry on the best she can. To finish what they started together.

In fairy tales, love stories end with happily ever after. But life isn’t a fairy tale and this world is too broken for happily ever afters to take place here. But the best love stories really are forever. I was blessed to have a front row seat to one of the greatest love stories the world has ever known. Their legacy is mine to continue.

To love, really love well. And to build a home where love can live.

Forty-five years and counting, their love story continues….


Mama, I’ve been thinking about this day for awhile now. I wanted to do something to make today easier for you. But I can’t. Some days are just hard and I’m sure today was one of those days. I wish I were better at making my words match everything in my heart, but after many attempts, this is the best I could do for now. I struggled with sharing some of these memories because they are so private and precious and beautiful to me they almost seem fragile. But I just want you to know I noticed you there. And I didn’t want any of them to be lost because they forever changed me. Thank you for loving him well. No one could have loved him more or better. Thank you both for giving us a home where love lived.


Filed under Family, My Grief Observed

If You Could Be a Dolphin or an Astronaut, What Would Be Your Secret Superpower?

I am not a big fan of ice breaker questions.

There. I said it.

I don’t like the ones where you have to collect signatures aka People Bingo. Note: Giving the ice breaker a fun game name doesn’t make it more appealing. We’ve all done it before. We know what’s going on here. (Quick! Do you speak more than one language? Have you been to all 50 states? Do you own more than three cats? Have you ever gone more than three days without taking a shower?) All this ice breaker tells me is who the competitive people are in the room. They may not know the first name of a single person there, but by golly they were the first ones to get all their squares signed.  Plus, how better to get acquainted than to  stereotype people within the first hour of meeting them?:

“Did you meet the nerd who has seen every episode of Star Trek?”

“Was he married to the cat lady?”

“No, you’re thinking of the stinky guy who doesn’t shower.”

I’m not fond of ice breaker questions either. I liked them more in my young and single days when I had extra real estate in my brain to think about other things. These days I’m more concerned about whether or not I remembered to turn off the stove than whether I would rather have an extra finger or a missing toe.

Because God has a sense of humor, He has blessed me with children who prefer a world where every question is an ice breaker question. This morning, I barely had my eyes all the way open when my youngest son needed to know if I could be any animal, which one I would be. Truth is, I’m rather glad I’m not an animal. I don’t want to be any of the animals. This, however, is not an acceptable answer at my house. A decision must be made. Apparently life as we know it hinges on my answer.

Later today, my daughter wanted to know my favorite letter. Truth is, I don’t have a favorite letter. I told her this and added I felt like it was unfair to the other letters to show any sort of favoritism. I could tell by the disgusted look on her face I had chosen poorly.

I think my issue with ice breaker questions is I tend to overthink them. I don’t want to just throw out the first answer to pop in my head. I want to analyze my choices as if I  one day I really may be held accountable for my answer to the question of whether I’d rather be able to read minds or fly.

My friend Heather reminded me of another ice breaker game I don’t particularly enjoy. She hates when you are asked to tell two truths and a lie and everyone is supposed to guess which is which. Although I guess knowing who you can’t trust is useful information to know in a new group. Beware of people who are really good at this ice breaker game.

Ice breakers are on my mind because I’ve had to be part of an online training this week. Today was day three of five and so far we’ve started each session with an ice breaker question. The first day was easy enough. All we had to do was “tell the group a little bit about ourselves.” I have that information memorized, so I usually have that ready at all times. Yesterday, our instructor wanted to know whether we would classify ourselves as stiletto or flip flop girls. That was easy. Anyone who has seen me attempt to walk in anything higher than a thick sandal can testify I am a flip flop girl whether I want to be one or not. Actually, I prefer Orthaheels, but that’s another story for another day.

I don’t know why, but I wasn’t really expecting an ice breaker question today. I figured for the purposes of our little group, the ice was sufficiently broken. We’re all in different parts of the country and have no plans to get together after this mandatory training is complete. Besides, no one has ever answered an ice breaker question in such a way to make me feel like a real connection was made or I could be lifelong friends on the basis of his or her answer. But guess what? We must be thicker than the Titanic’s iceberg because our ice breaker question for today was:

“If you could be any cartoon character, who would you be?”

Granted, I’m tired. I haven’t been sleeping well and I have been nursing a headache all week. I’m not at my best, so when she asked this seemingly harmless question, something inside me broke and it wasn’t the ice. I knew the instructor would ask me first because she always goes in alphabetical order. I thought about just throwing out a random cartoon character name but I knew she’d ask me to justify my answer, so I broke one of the cardinal ice breaker rules. I gave no answer.

“I have no idea, Gina. Sorry, but I have nothing. Can’t think of a single cartoon character I would be like.”

The silence that followed was uncomfortable. I felt guilty for not playing along. None of this was  Gina the Instructor’s fault. I’m sure the ice breaker questions were mandated by a higher authority than she. But I just couldn’t answer one more question today.

The rest of our class went smoothly and no one seemed to hold my lack of ice breaking skill against me. But tomorrow, I want to be ready. I’ve been googling ice breaker questions and I’m trying to be prepared for any question Gina the Instructor throws my way. So help a sister out. Throw me all your favorite (and feel free to use that word ironically or sarcastically) ice breaker questions. I want to make my class proud tomorrow. Ready? Go!


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Audacious: Who Does She Think She Is?

audacious: au-da-cious (adjective)

1. extremely bold or daring; recklessly brave; fearless

2. extremely original; without restriction to prior ideas; highly inventive

3. recklessly bold in defiance of convention, propriety, law, or the like; insolent; brazen

4. lively; unrestrained; uninhibited

She’d been called a lot of things, but she couldn’t recall anyone ever calling her audacious.

That’s not to say she was the fearful sort. She was always up for an adventure, but it was usually someone else’s idea and she was just along for the ride.  She would certainly never jump without a net.

She could be creative and she usually picked the brightest crayons in the box, but she was never one to color outside the lines.

Some might say she lived a charmed life. She would say she was blessed. She loved deeply and was deeply loved and she never ran out of reasons to be grateful.


Still, she thought maybe she was missing something.

Like maybe she wasn’t doing everything she’d been made to do.

Sometimes those thoughts made her excited to know she could be part of something bigger than her imagination.

Sometimes those thoughts made her feel anxious, like she was running out of time to do whatever it was she was meant to do.

Sometimes those thoughts made her feel ashamed, like she thought she was somebody special. Just who did she think she was?

But she knew who she was! She was special! She was a child of the King. He had made her to do big things for Him!

She had big dreams but they were fuzzy around the edges. She’d thought about sleeping in her contacts to see if she could bring them into focus, but she had a feeling her problem was bigger than her nearsightedness.

Sometimes she felt like the good guest towels and the special soaps she put out when company came. They stayed clean and pretty but they rarely did what they were made to do. She didn’t want to get to the end of her story with anything held back.

But what was she supposed to do next?

Didn’t everyone want to do big things for God?

Then why weren’t big things happening everywhere all the time?

What was holding everyone back?

She didn’t know.

But she was tired of being like everyone else.

She was tired of waiting for everyone else to tell her it was okay to do something different.

To dare.

To dream.

To teach her children to tear down walls and find new ways to be Jesus in the places they lived.

She knew if she didn’t at least start, she’d never even have a chance to finish whatever it was God had dreamed for her to do.

It could rock the boat.

People may wonder.

It might not be safe.

But maybe it was time to do something worthy of being called audacious.

Maybe it was time for a change.

With gratitude to Jon Acuff and Jeff Goins who have me thinking big thoughts this week.


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Is it Ironic? I’m Really Not Sure



(Image from

I was in the middle of writing an entirely different post, but I think I’m going to let it rest for awhile. Which is ironic because the post I was writing  was about resting.

Did I use the word “ironic” correctly there? I recently read an article about words we commonly misuse and “ironic” was one of them. Several years ago I read an article criticizing Alanis Morissette for not using irony correctly in her song, “Isn’t It Ironic?”  But I say, maybe Alanis wasn’t sure if she was using irony or not. So she asked, “Isn’t it ironic?” which may be Canadian for “Is it ironic? I can’t tell.”  Ironically (again, I may not be using the word the way it’s truly meant) when I tried to find the article on Google, I found a video of two girls who have  corrected Alanis’s song so it really is ironic. I don’t think it’s nearly as musically appealing as the first one, but it was fun. And kept me distracted and away from what I really should have been working on at the time.

I mostly blame this post on my college friend Jeff Noble. He wrote a post yesterday listing blogs he follows, encouraging his readers to take a look. He was kind enough to recommend this blog along with Susan’s to his female readers. I wasn’t even offended he didn’t think his male readers would like my blog. That’s why I mention it to you now.

Anywho, he said our blogs were, and I quote, “very, very funny,” end quote. (I guess you still put the quotation marks even if you type out the words “quote” and “end quote?” Does anyone know? This whole post is making me very insecure.)  When I read his description, I thought, “You know, I don’t think I’ve written anything even remotely funny in awhile.” I looked back at my last few posts. I have two deaths and an angsty teenager interspersed with a post linking you to stuff other people wrote. Nope. Not too funny. And the post I was working on today? Well, I don’t think it would have made anyone cry, but it was kind of thinky and not really humorous.

Before we proceed, I feel like I should establish I’m not saying this post will necessarily be funny. I’m just saying the post I was writing definitely leaned more towards “not funny.” This one doesn’t seem to be leaning one way or the other.

The whole Jeff incident reminded me of a time another friend who is also named Jeff (would that be ironic?) sent a friend to read my blog. This Jeff is friends with a writer I admire. (I’m not going to use names because, well, I’m just not. Maybe I’m trying to protect the innocent. Or Jeff. Or me. I don’t know.) Anyway, Jeff told his friend he should stop by the blog because he thought he might like what I had to say. Jeff didn’t tell me he was sending his friend over. The day he sent him, I happened to mention a famous person in my blog. I’m not really a fan of this person. I honestly don’t know much about him. I’d never mentioned him before and haven’t mentioned him since. I’m not even sure why he popped in my head, but I used him as an example. But ironically (can I get a ruling?), this famous person was the ex of the woman the famous author had just started dating. What are the odds, sports fans? Not in my favor, I can tell you that.

Well, all of the preceding was just the introduction for the post I was writing in substitution for the post I’d originally intended to write, but it’s late and I’m tired and honestly, I don’t really remember where I was going with this. So the message I’m sharing today is I don’t feel confident in my understanding of irony.

But I wonder if any of you really know how to use irony correctly. Points to anyone who can explain irony so I completely understand whether it’s truly irony or just  coincidence or plain bad luck. More points to anyone who can list (if there are any) the true examples of irony in this blog post. Winner will receive a prize from one of the Jeffs. Since I hold the two of them entirely responsible for this post. Ironically.



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In Memory of the Minutes that Made the Days That Made the Life

One of our favorite things about living in Boston was our church,  Hope Fellowship. We felt more like members of a family than members of a church.

The Brown family has been part of Hope Fellowship from its beginning. We didn’t get a chance to know Jeff and Carolynne very well. For a good part of the time we attended Hope Fellowship they were away.  The Browns had one son, Grant.  Grant was only a toddler when we lived there, but he never seemed like a baby to me. He always struck me as an old soul, a little man trapped in his tiny body.  Grant was certainly the sunshine of his parents’ lives. You didn’t have to be around the Browns for any time to see how much they all loved each other.

On July 23, 2013, six-year-old Grant died after a horrible accident at day camp. Hope Fellowship has done what families do when a member needs support. They’ve provided meals, transportation, lodging….anything Jeff and Carolynne need. But they can’t provide everything they want or need. No one on earth can. No one can give Grant back to them.

The church created a website to help spread information and solicit help for the Browns. On the site, they published a picture slide show the family used in Grant’s memorial service. I watched the video today.  Picture after picture flashed across my screen. While I watched, I thought of all the pictures I have in my photo library, so similar to the ones I was seeing.

Times like these always remind me of how fragile life is. How none of us is guaranteed one last picture. Every time I hear about a tragedy like this, I tell myself I’m going to be more intentional. I try to carpe diem and celebrate the every day moments just in case everything ends without warning. I go into my babies’ rooms and watch them sleep, trying to freeze time and the memory forever. I try as hard as I can to make every second count.

But then it’s Monday and someone left the milk out again.  We’re out of toilet paper and the library books are overdue.  For Pete’s sake, the kids won’t stop touching each other and I could not care less who did what to the other one first.  Sometimes I can’t wait for those moments to slip through my hands. Sometimes the minutes are hard and I’m tired and I don’t feel joyful about unloading the same dishwasher I’ve already unloaded seven times this week.

Big Mama’s daughter just had a birthday. Her posts about Caroline usually strike a chord with me because my daughter (and youngest son) are only a few months younger. I feel like our children have grown up together even though I’ve never even been in the same room with Big Mama or Caroline. In her post about Caroline turning ten,  Big Mama said this:

Time is fragile. You can’t catch it. You can’t hold onto it. You can’t make it go backwards. It slips right through your fingers and you’re left wondering what happened to the last year or five years or ten years. You remember the high points and the low points, but it’s the every day moments that get lost in the shuffle. I would give my right arm to have one more morning with you as a chubby two year old cuddled up next to me watching Sesame Street.

My oldest will be thirteen in less than half a year. My first baby will be a teenager. Like most boys he doesn’t talk about feelings and matters of the heart very often, so when he does, I need to be ready to listen. Unfortunately, he usually is ready to talk at times I find inconvenient at best, like this evening when I was driving the kids home through downtown Honolulu in traffic down an unfamiliar road. I wanted to say encouraging things like, “Oh really? Tell me more!” or “How did you feel about that?” but I was thinking, “Oh, my word, I can’t hear myself think!” and “Did I just miss my turn? I think I just missed my turn!” I compromised and listened as best as I could while navigating through lane changes and uncooperative drivers, giving an occasional nod and “Hmmm…” as encouragement to continue.

Being present and assigning meaning to the minutes is hard sometimes. It requires us to slow down and be still and quiet. We have to notice, really notice, what is happening around us and stop trying to fast forward to the next scene.

I constantly need to be reminded to slow down and be in my life. Tonight, Grant’s video is what reminded me to pay closer attention to my people. Left to my own devices, I would plow through many days, with the goal of surviving and no thought to relishing. I’d look without seeing, hear without listening, eat without tasting, and touch without feeling. I wish being intentional were more automatic for me. I wish I didn’t need for someone else’s deepest pain to be the impetus to slow down and love wholeheartedly with my full attention.

But tonight that’s exactly what I needed. And I decided to write about it in case it’s something you needed to hear today, too.

Do you struggle with letting the days pass without really noticing them?  My friend Candace read Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts and she has been listing what makes her grateful every day, usually accompanied by her beautiful photos. What do you do to remind yourself to be more grateful and intentional as a parent, spouse, friend?


My favorite people after a memory-making afternoon spent fishing this weekend. Cue the Andy Griffith theme.


Filed under Family

Five Minute Friday: Story

I’m joining with Lisa-Jo and her friends for Five Minute Friday again this week. Every Friday Lisa-Jo gives us a writing prompt and asks us to write for five minutes about it without stopping to edit or agonize about getting every word and punctuation mark exactly right. For today’s prompt she gave us one of my favorite words: “Story.” I feel like I’ve already written so many posts on this topic. Just last week I wrote a post about “Other People’s Stories.” The tagline of my blog is “living my story one page at a time.” Coming up with just one idea and limiting myself to just five minutes is going to be a challenge, but I think I’m up for it. My mind is going many different directions, but my thoughts keep going to a poem I wrote in either late junior high or early high school. I had some “angsty” periods during those days and I think the poem came out of one of those times. I don’t have the actual poem with me because I’m pretty sure it’s in a box in a long-term storage facility in Alabama, but I  remember several of the lines. So I’m going to embrace my inner 14-15-year old and let her out to guest host the blog today. Caution: she is prone to drama and self-absorption, but be tender with her. God’s not through writing her story yet. Here she goes:


You say you know me like a book, but you’ve never even read me.

You recognize me by my cover. Didn’t your mama ever tell you not to judge books by those?

You think you know me because you’ve read a few reviews other people have posted about me. Maybe you’ve even flipped through my pages and read a few stories, but you haven’t read the whole book. You don’t really know me.

You haven’t read the introduction. You don’t know how my story came to be or why it’s important to the world.

You haven’t read the acknowledgements. You don’t know who contributed to make me who I am today.

You know nothing about the plot development or theme and you don’t get the symbolism.

I’m so much more than the synopsis you read on the inside book jacket.

Stories take time and you’re just too busy to read mine.

I want to be more than one of a stack on your nightside table. Something you’ll get to when you don’t have anything better to do.

So please don’t say you know me like a book.

I don’t think you read books like I do.


Told you she was a little “angsty.”  Anyone else want to pull out a poem from the teen years? Maybe a good journal entry? Those are always fun! Come on!  Introduce us to the younger you! Anyone else have a good list of names you want to give your future children? Or was that just me? 





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